meeting Sir Peter Blake – Four Decades, Chelsea Futurespace & an Art Bus

The private view for Four Decades an exhibition of prints by Sir Peter Blake, selected by the artist took place recently at Chelsea Futurespace, Grosvenor Waterside. Part of my role working at CHELSEA space, also involves me working at Chelsea Futurespace, where I recently co-curated the exhibition SURFACE which you can read about here.

Sir Peter Blake is renowned for his influence on Pop Art and culture and is frequently referred to as the ‘Godfather of British Pop Art’. One of his most famous works must be his design for the iconic cover of The Beatles’ ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. I borrowed one of the two copies of the record my parents own, to take a picture of the well known image.

The Beatles’ ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ record cover designed by Sir Peter Blake

The Beatles’ ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ record cover designed by Sir Peter Blake

Blake’s work takes its influence from the realms of pop culture, literature, music and contemporary art. The suites of prints in the Four Decades exhibition include his series of Appropriated AlphabetsAlice in WonderlandThe Butterfly Man (Homage to Damien Hirst) and Homage to Schwitters. Other highlights include prints from the Found Art series, screenprints from collage and portraits of musicians. The show covers the diversity and dexterity of Blake’s practice as an artist working in print across the last four decades.

Sir Peter Blake and I with my CHELSEA space colleague Daisy McMullan

Sir Peter Blake and I with my CHELSEA space colleague Daisy McMullan

Sir Peter Blake was extremely generous and during the private view as guests queued up to meet great Godfather of British Pop Art, Blake found time for a few words with everyone and signed all the publications from the exhibition that were offered, using his famous signature.

Sir Peter Blake signs publication

Sir Peter Blake signs my publication copy

Peter Blake signs my copy of the Four Decades publication from Chelsea Futurespace

Peter Blake signs my copy of the Four Decades publication from Chelsea Futurespace

I love the CCA Art Bus – a mobile work of art designed by Sir Peter Blake which is also a mobile art gallery. I saw the art bus at  the Diamond Jubilee celebrations at Battersea Park- 3rd June last year in 2012. Sir Peter Blake’s work is always approachable and eye catching, of the moment and British.  Here’s hoping we see many more of his prints in the decades to come!

Kate Ross by the CCA Art Bus designed by Sir Peter Blake at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations at Battersea Park- 3rd June 2012

Kate Ross by the CCA Art Bus designed by Sir Peter Blake at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations at Battersea Park- 3rd June 2012


Curating SURFACE exhibition at Chelsea Futurespace gallery

SURFACE is the latest exhibition that I have curated, this time with Daisy McMullan who is my colleague at my workplace CHELSEA space . As part of my role this year as Chelsea Arts Club Trust Fellow  (which you can read about here), Donald Smith – Director of Exhibitions at CHELSEA space informed my colleague and I that there was a gap in the exhibitions programme at our sister gallery Chelsea Futurespace and that we would have the opportunity of curating an exhibition there.

Chelsea Futurespace Exterior

Chelsea Futurespace from exterior to interior during SURFACE private view http://www.chelseaspace.org/blog/archives/2831/cfs-2

The Challenges & Limitations

Chelsea Futurespace is not a space which has the sole function of a gallery.

Chelsea Futurespace is an exemplary collaboration between Chelsea College of Art and Design, Futurecity arts consultancy, and the property developer, St James Urban Living, part of the Berkeley group. It provides a showcase exhibiting space for the alumni and staff of Chelsea College of Art and Design set within St James’ Grosvenor Waterside development at Chelsea Bridge. http://www.chelseafuturespace.org/about.html

So, there are some challenges involved in putting on an exhibition in such a space which is a foyer to a high end residential development where anything from furniture deliveries to dogs and children being walked traipse through, but these can also be looked on as positive opportunities. As mentioned above, Chelsea Futurespace was created as an exhibiting space to showcase specifically work from alumni and staff of Chelsea College of Art and Design, so as curators there was already a structure within which the artists selected would need to fit.

As Chelsea Futurespace is also a living space with the day to day function of being used as the foyer and reception to the whole residential developement, this means that the gallery is part of the residents’ home and many families and children come through the space on a daily basis. So the artwork displayed has to be unobjectionable to viewers and any material that could be seen as explicit or offensive in any way cannot be shown.

Chelsea Futurespace walls

view of two of the exhibiting walls at Chelsea Futurespace during SURFACE exhibition

A practical point that had to be considered is that for exhibiting, the space consists of 4 two-sided walls, each 10ft square ie 8 walls each 10ft/306cm square. These white walls are moveable, but aesthetically and curatorially, navigation and narrative around the show would need to be succesfully achieved so there are only so many possible combinations for the walls which work well. As the space is used constantly for deliveries, as a shortcut and more, any artwork displayed in the space needs to be securely attached to the walls or safe and not pretruding in the way if not directly fastened to the walls.

The Artwork & Theme

So how did we as curators choose the exhibition theme, title, the artists and artworks? We decided that it would be easiest and most efficient to select a broad theme that would allow for a number of different media or artwork to be included into it. I was keen to avoid an exhibition which would only profile one media of artwork and from the start, as Chelsea Futurespace is bright and open, surrounded by large windows and water, I imagined the show to be colourful and rich in variation, interest and technique. The theme of surface allowed for artwork to be exhibited from painting, textiles, collage, drawing, print and objects, therefore crossing the boundaries between fine art, craft and design. I also felt that this range of artwork reflects the multiple areas of practice which are explored by students (and therefore alumni) of Chelsea College of Art & Design.

Charlotte Jonerheim's work at SURFACE exhibition, Chelsea Futurespace, 2013

Charlotte Jonerheim’s work at SURFACE exhibition, Chelsea Futurespace, 2013

Two of the artists I was especially pleased to exhibit work by, were Charlotte Jonerheim, whose work I had admired at the MA Fine Art Chelsea College of Art & Design summer show last year and Brian Chalkley whose work I have written about here. I knew that Charlotte would be able to work successfully in adapting to the limitations of the space as described above and that she would create an installation that was site specific, also using objects from her personal artist’s history which is a method used by Charlotte in her practice. I was determined to have Charlotte’s work included in the show so that there would be objects in the exhibition and not just artworks fixed the wall. In the end, Charlotte used a shelf she had made and a plinth from CHELSEA space to display her work which was the highlight of the show for me, physically coming out of the wall space, yet the delicate nature of the objects were protected.

Charlotte Jonerheim Excavation II 2012-13

Charlotte Jonerheim Excavation II, 2012-13 Cupboard, paint, porcelain, muslin & wax

Charlotte Jonerheim Excavation I 2012-13 Exhibit 1, fringe & wax. Exhibit 2, porcelain figure & surgical gloves. Exhibit 3, plaster, pigment, & bangle. Exhibit 4, porcelain, lamp holder & thread

Charlotte Jonerheim Excavation I 2012-13 Exhibit 1, fringe & wax. Exhibit 2, porcelain figure & surgical gloves. Exhibit 3, plaster, pigment, & bangle. Exhibit 4, porcelain, lamp holder & thread

The work by Brian Chalkley that we decided to show, were his collages which are made using fashion magazine figures that have then been altered by the artist. I love these images which are striking, playful and also prompt us to think about what we see in magazines that is real and what is invented. This couture collage technique is clever and fun.

Brian Chalkley. If you're gonna be on TV and in films, people are gonna look at you in the street, 2012

Brian Chalkley. Collage. If you’re gonna be on TV and in films, people are gonna look at you in the street, 2012

Branding

It was important to us that the branding for the exhibition was clear and consistent, since we also run CHELSEA space, the invitations, press release, mailout and list of works would stick to the Chelsea Futurespace style. We chose a font that was clear and that we liked the look of and each time the exhibition name SURFACE was written, we used the exhibition title font, so that the reader is not confused between the show title and the use of the word surface. Below you can see how the A5 black and white publication we produced matches the style of the invitation card. We chose one of the artworks from the exhibition by Kangwook Lee for the publication booklet cover as well as on the invitation card as it was decorative, detailed and it worked well with the text style.

SURFACE exhibition invite card and publication cover

SURFACE exhibition invite card and     publication cover

the curious curator with Charlotte Jonerheim while installing her work at the SURFACE exhibition at Chelsea Futurespace

the curious curator with Charlotte Jonerheim while installing her work at the SURFACE exhibition at Chelsea Futurespace

Curating the SURFACE exhibition was an enjoyable opportunity, being able to pick and choose artists and work that was to our taste. However, it was also challenging due to working in a multi functioning space with its limitations. The exhibition has been well received and has now been extended until 28th April 2013.